Today we are going to see what to do when God is silent. God being silent is not talked much in churches because some say we always have the written word of God and His Holy Spirit living inside of us. That is true of course but many great men of God have gone through times in their lives when it seemed that God was silent and they had a feeling that He was absent from them.
When it comes to pain and suffering there are many things we cannot understand and we do not understand the full impact that suffering can have on an individual.
“Suffering is much more than an intellectual problem. It’s an experience that engulfs the body, mind, and soul of the sufferer. Those who provide neat theoretical and theological answers to the “problem of pain” are of no help to the people who suffer.” (Let God be God, Ray C. Stedman, PG 69)
Most of the books written on pain were not so much written to address Christians but were written to address atheist who were attacking the notion that God exist because of pain and suffering. C.S. Lewis, a former Atheist, wrote two books on pain. One was the Problem of Pain and the other one was a Grief observed. A Grief observed was written after his wife died and he wrote it under an alias name.(N.W. Clerk) C.S. Lewis finally admitted he wrote the book after his friends kept sending it to him to help him with the passing of his wife. The intellectual and theological study of pain was different than the experienced pain and suffering he went through when his wife died. Christians when they study apologetics or a defense of the faith may grow stronger in their faith toward God but that does not alleviate the pain that one is experiencing. So in other words, intellectually dealing with pain and personally dealing with pain are two different things and so we have to be careful that our intellectual answers do not destroy the person who is personally dealing with pain.
So what do we do when God is silent?
What things can we hold onto when life does not make sense?
1) The Silence of God can feel like He is mad at you.
Job 6:4 For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
Job 9:17-18 For he crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; 18 he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness.
Job 10:16 And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me.
Job believes that God was punishing him but he was not sure why. Job had asked his friends in chapter 6 to please point out the sin they adamantly said he had. They had no specific sin they could point to and Job soul searched hoping there was a sin he could discover that he had not asked for forgiveness for.
In the silence of God, Job starts to believe that God was actually against him and like a hunter was out to make sure he was destroyed. Job goes onto to plead with God that he would go ahead and just remove him from the earth or leave him alone. Job wanted the pain to end and he saw no relief in sight.
Job 7:17-21 What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, 18 visit him every morning and test him every moment? 19 How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? 20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? 21 Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
If we are honest we have all felt days where it seemed we could not catch a break and that God seemed to either be against us or has forgotten about us. Job acknowledged that God looked down on mankind but Job wished that God would just stop paying attention to him and leave him alone. In verse 21 Job ask why God is not pardoning his sins as He had done so many times before.When you believe that God is out to punish you then you will be confused and actually, like Job, want God to just leave you alone. Satan’s lie has always been that you are better without God and when God is silent that lie becomes magnified.
Satan’s attack against Job has not stopped and Satan is using God’s silence to assault Job’s faith and to hopefully break his spirit. God is using the suffering to develop Jobs faith and to demonstrate to Satan the true plan of Jesus Christ.
“Our hurts are not meaningless events that serve no purpose, rather, they are wounds suffered in battle during a cosmic war between good and evil, and God is weaving our wound into a vast plan for ultimate victory.” (Let God be God, Ray C. Stedman, PG 68)
God is not punishing you and He is not just using you for some experiment. Everything God allows to touch our lives is part of a bigger purpose that we may not understand this side of Heaven. It is the pride of man to think that he has to pay for his own sins or that because he has not confessed a sin then God is going to punish him. All of the punishment of sin was poured out on Jesus Christ who took the wrath from God that we deserve.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
When we believe we can stand before God on our own accomplishments or because we paid for our sins somehow then we miss the good news of Jesus Christ. Some even like to think that the suffering they are experiencing is paying for the sins they have committed. Anything that takes away from what Jesus did on the cross or any thinking that man can earn his own way back to God is a false doctrine. Suffering has a purpose in our lives but it is not to pay for any of our sins.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
As a believer in what Jesus Christ did on the cross we are looked upon as if we have obeyed every commandment or as if we have never sinned. So to believe like Jobs friends and even Job that you are suffering for sins you have committed is a mistake and one that God is going to challenge at the end of the book of Job.
This does not mean that sin cannot lead to suffering because God gave us rules to live by for our own benefit, but we do not suffer to atone for our sins.
2) The Silence of God leaves room for other voices
Read Job 8:1-6
In Job 8, Jobs friends continue their assault of why Job is suffering. It is amazing that in the silence of God that is where the voices of others seem louder. This is where good theology (study of God) will help you because you can notice the truth from the lies. Even some pastors will teach you false doctrine either out of ignorance or because they have an idea of how God works and they twist the Bible to fit their narrative.
Job is surrounded by so called friends who have no sympathy for all that he has gone through but only give trite sayings that cause even more pain. Did Job’s friends know the truth as to why Job was suffering? Of course not. Did Job’s friends try and understand his pain? No. Jobs friends were totally unaware that God could use suffering or allow suffering that was no fault of the person suffering.
Like good medicine given to the wrong patient, Jobs friends were actually poisoning him and multiplying his pain. Telling someone to repent of their sin is not a bad thing in an of itself, but when we always assume that their suffering is because of a hidden sin in their life then we assume a false theology.
I shared before that none of Job’s friends offered practical help like ointment for his skin or food for the family. Another aspect of Jobs friends is that not one time do we see them praying asking God for wisdom to help their friend. Before we speak we need to seek God and ask for wisdom . Our society is full of voices and when God is silent those voices become louder. Satan wants to fill the air with noise so that you lose your faith in God. Trusting God in His silence is difficult but will take you deeper in your faith and trust in Him. Sometimes your own voice is the one you have to guard against.
John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What voices are you listening to?
3) The Silence of God does not mean the absence of God.
Job 9:11 Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Job 9:16 If I summoned him and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
Read Job 9:32-35
Job 13:24 Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?
Job went from a man who thought God was after him to a man who thought God had forgotten about him. In our suffering it is normal to wonder where God is and why He will not answer us. We wonder if he can hear our prayers and if our prayers make it past the ceiling.
These verses show that Job felt like he and God were no longer friends and Job wanted someone to come and help him and God get back together. The term was really a referee or someone who could separate two fighters locked in a clinch. Job felt as if he was in a fight with God and Job wanted that to change. The silence of God was causing Job to have rage, doubt and despair. What Job experienced the Psalmist also experienced.
Psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
I am so glad that God has put in his word that there will be times He will be silent and those times were experienced by godly men. As a Christian you may believe that God has abandoned you but you can believe Him when He says that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Jesus in Matthew 27 felt the pain of being forsaken so we do not have to.When Jesus cried out on the cross in pain He accomplished the ultimate sacrifice of being alone so we would never have to be. My God , My God why have you forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46)
“The Son of God who is the Father’s beloved and delight was forsaken. He was abandoned and left all alone, Being forsaken by his friends was one thing, but being forsaken by His Father was quite another. The depth of this pain is greater than we can know. There has been no greater pain in all of history. Why is the depth of Christ pain significant for us? Because we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15) In the midst of our pain we may feel alone and believe that no one has hurt as badly as we hurt. But it isn’t true. Jesus Christ felt such pain; indeed, he has felt pain that would have destroyed us. He is able to sympathize. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb.4:16) (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Dustin Shramrek, pg 186)
Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Our contentment in life should always be that He is with us no matter what this life throws at us.
Maybe in God’s silence you have become so discouraged or even enraged with God that you no longer seek Him. Maybe the pain and suffering you are experiencing is so great that you believe God is after you and is trying to harm you like you have a target on your back. The times God is silent in our lives can be scary, frustrating and lead us to want to give up. The good news for us is that we have His word we can go to in order to find encouragement and strength to make it through the day and we know that He has given us His Holy Spirit that will strengthen us in our time of need.